Reese chooses a lone elevator from a wall filled with them. Once we step inside, the door closes, separating us from the rest of the world. We lean against the wall of the well-appointed conveyance, its high-end décor holding its own against the building in which it’s housed. Reese holds my left hand snugly within his. I gnaw on my other thumbnail, anxiously shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Thanks to the stress of my situation, I feel the beat of my heart in my right temple. I cease chewing on my nail long enough to sooth the pounding presence at the side of my head. My racing thoughts run in an unending loop, hastening memories of past family encounters and raising questions about what lies before me several stories overhead. My emotions are raw, intense, and frantic, and I readily admit my description of them is sorely lacking. As burdened as my mind is, it acknowledges that Reese leaves my side and walks across the vertically mobile room to the opposite wall. He’s the only person alive who’s able to focus my attention on something other than my current situation. I welcome the distraction he offers, so I choose to set aside the firestorm in my head and think about my husband. The first time I laid eyes on him, I was mesmerized by the way he moved. Graceful strength is the best way to describe his innate coordination. It might sound odd to be interested in someone for such a basic reason, but who’s truly qualified to define personal attraction? It’s something different for each of us, and, while it’s what initially drew me to him, I now understand the entirety of his bearing is comprised of several things and is certainly more than the simple expression of gifted genetics. The only courtroom battle Reese ever lost was the first case he tried right out of law school, after just having passed the bar exam. That loss ignited a fire within him and gave rise to a promise. Reese vowed to never lose another case, and it's a promise he's kept. Through the years, he’s represented many people, many types of people. Some were quite wealthy and paid for their legal representation while others weren’t nearly as well off but benefited from Reese’s expertise on a pro bono basis. His legal adversaries consider him arrogant and ruthless. After all, there must be a reason he remains virtually undefeated. They can’t bring themselves to consider the possibility he’s simply better at wielding the law. While their perception is limited and self-serving, I know the truth behind the courtroom persona. I understand the essence of the heart which drives him. I know Reese as strong, confident, and brilliant, completely lacking the hubris others ascribe to him. To their detriment, his colleagues fail to understand one simple truth: Reese is a man of substance. His efforts as an attorney are not about being a better salesman in the court room. His efforts are about representing people in whom he truly believes. Educated passion trumps any opponent. My husband is truly an impressive man because of his integrity, the invisible standard to which he holds himself. I understand Reese’s commanding, envy inducing demeanor is a product of his entire life experience. He owns his self-awareness and wields it as expertly as he does his chosen profession. We’ve been together ten years, and, as far as I’m concerned, Reese is still the sexiest guy God ever made. After ten years he still finds ways to surprise me. There are times in life during which we need others in greater measure, and, for me, this is one of those times. I find such solace and strength in Reese’s presence. Even my current emotional upheaval fails to prevent my gratitude. I stand here with the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I pull forth and utter a prayer of thanks. Dear God, I love this man. Thank you for his sane, steadfast presence in my life. Silently, I watch as Reese walks to the opposite wall and pushes a button on the control panel. The elevator glides to a smooth halt several floors beneath our destination. I look up at him to find his gaze already fixed on me. Surprised, I ask, "What’re you doing? We have a room full of people waiting on us." Reese offers me that shy, sexy smile he's so good at sharing when he wants something and expects to get it. "It's not quite time,” he explains, “so we have a few minutes.” He cocks his head slightly and shrugs one shoulder, “Besides, I'm pretty sure they’ll wait on us." It's not that I'm unaware of our few spare moments, it's just that I want this day behind me. I walk over next to Reese and reach for the top floor button. Reese takes hold of my hand, twining my fingers within his, and says quietly, "No, Em. It's not time." The tone of his voice isn’t lost on me. It's not a tone of censure or dominance, but it's not a teasing tone either. It's the tone he uses when he's about to say something for my own good. Reese has earned the right to be heard. He deserves my respect and attention because he’s proven himself to me time and again. The early challenging years of our marriage taught me I could truly trust my husband with anything, including my insecurities. Reese takes hold of my upper arms and gently places me in the nearest corner. He lifts the underside of my chin with his forefinger and tips my face just enough to align our gazes. Earnestly, he says, "I won't let you walk in there upset, Em. You mean too much to me. I won't allow your family the satisfaction of seeing you so unnerved." Trust him or not, I’m compelled to speak, but Reese places his forefinger over my lips, deflecting my interruption. He offers a scant head shake. "No," he says with a slight edge to his voice, "hear me out." Reese raises his eyebrows at me as a request for my compliance. I drop my gaze and nod my head in silent agreement. Still, without a sound, I look back up at him and give him my full attention, bracing myself for his words. Taking hold of my hands, Reese looks down at me with adoration shining in his eyes. When he speaks, his tone contains the same loving warmth. "You, my dear sweet wife, did absolutely everything you could to help your mother, despite the emotional abuse you endured. You reached out to your sister, so the two of you could work together, but she refused to cooperate. You spent weeks, doing absolutely anything and everything your mom needed, so she was as comfortable and cared for as possible. You logged countless hours in waiting rooms for doctor visits and surgical procedures, ran endless errands, cleaned and cooked for her all the while subjecting yourself to more emotional abuse as thanks for your efforts. You did your best when you could have walked out and arranged for professional caretakers. Unnecessarily, you put up with everything because you simply wanted to honor your mom. “Even if your sister and brother refuse to acknowledge your contribution, I know you enabled her to stay in her home far longer than she could’ve without your help. I also know you jumped at every command your siblings barked at you without ever giving them an instant’s grief. You never second guessed their contribution to your mom’s care. Not once, Em.” Tears collect in my eyes as my mind embraces the truth of Reese’s words. The effort I exerted in the face of such hostility is not the substance of fond memories. Reese understands my struggle and hates the pain caused by my family. He’s walking with me through the heartache. “I know you loved your mom, Em. I know how badly you wanted things between the two of you to work. I also understand that you never got what you wanted. I'm so sorry for that, sweetheart, I truly am, but I won’t let you walk into that room to hear the reading of your mother's will while standing in the shadow of your siblings. They have no power over you, Em, none but the power you relinquish. You’ve said and done what was needed to get through this. You’ve nothing to regret, nothing for which to feel ashamed. You will walk into that room proud of yourself for the commitment and respect you showed your mom. You will not allow them to rob you of your peace of mind." I close my eyes and, try as I might, I fail to prevent a lone tear from escaping the outside corner of my right eye. I heard everything Reese said. My heart and mind embrace and appreciate his words. I love that he's being strong for me when I feel so gutted and vulnerable. He's always been good at reading me, but he’s gotten so much better with practice, having used the passing years to help me fine-tune a marriage we both cherish. "Stop it, Em," Reese chastises me. "You’re so strong and capable, baby. You conquer everything you tackle and there’s no reason for this to be the exception. Don’t look at today as something to be endured and pushed aside. Embrace today as an opportunity to show how proud you are for standing by your mom. Embrace your truth, Em! Stop doubting your worth and take a moment to see yourself as I see you." I sigh wearily. I'm pretty sure I know what he's going to say, but I have to ask anyway because, right now, I really need to hear it. "How do you see me?" I ask quietly, hesitantly as the weight of this day sits so heavily on my heart. "You’re so incredibly beautiful," he reassures me. "Yes,” he concedes, nodding his head, “you're certainly beautiful to look at, but your true beauty shines inside where God lives. You're beautiful because your faith allowed you to honor your parents before they died. You told each of them how grateful you were for the things they did well. You also honored them by showing up when you were needed. You cared for them despite the wounds which were reopened and all the pain which came as a result of your efforts. You're beautiful because, in honoring your parents, you honored God. You're beautiful because you're strong and you did what you knew was right even though you were scared to do it, even though you knew it would cost you so much. God sees you as beautiful, Em. So do I." Without a word, I drop my gaze and shake my head at him. I have to be honest with Reese. It’s the way we work, and I need his insight. "If I'm so beautiful why don't I feel beautiful? Why am I so torn up inside?" With confident tenderness, Reese says, "Because you're hurting, sweetheart. You’re grieving the loss of what you wanted with your parents. That's the only reason, I promise." Another tear slides down my face and falls away from my jaw line. The weariness of dealing with family drama is lodged in my bones much like the marrow they encompass. Unlike marrow, weariness is impervious to any predator. I fear I will never be rid of it. Reese caresses my cheek with the pad of his thumb and asks quietly, "You're struggling to believe me, aren't you?" I purse my lips and nod in silent agreement. To amplify his words, Reese cradles the back of my head and kisses me. The touch of his lips is sweet, honest, and nurturing. I close my eyes and savor his three-fold intention. He pauses long enough to gauge my response. I match his gaze and, when he reads what’s written in my eyes, he quickly identifies the lingering doubt. So, he gives me the smile he reserves for only one thing. "You know me, Em, I'm not one to run from a challenge." Slowly, understanding penetrates my worried mind. I gasp and snatch my head rearward, looking up to find his gaze. "You don't mean what I think you mean… not with so many people waiting on us… we don’t have ti…." Without hesitation, Reese switches gears and goes full-throttle husband on me, kissing me with a heat that electrifies my body. He pauses just long enough to whisper, "Everyone else, everything else, will wait. Right now, you need a powerful reminder to stop doubting your worth and your right to be in that room." My eyes widen, not because I disagree with him, but because I’m concerned with how he intends to proceed. "Reese, you’ve got to be kidding me!” I say in excited disbelief. I offer what I consider a second reasonable excuse. “I'm pretty sure there's a camera in here somewhere!" Reese ignores my incredulity and smiles confidently as he crouches before me, running his hands up the backs of my knees. His deft fingers find their way up under the hem of my skirt, then up the entire length of my outer thighs. He straightens and whispers seductively into my ear, "Yes, there's a camera,” he admits, “but we're standing directly beneath it, out of its sight line." His warm breath inspires goose bumps to cover my entire body. His aggressive attention unravels my opposing resolve and forces my focus onto him. Reese repeatedly squeezes my bottom where it rests against the elevator wall, his warm touch both soothes and seduces. He slides his hands farther up, hooking his thumbs in the double straps of my bikini panties. Kneeling in front of me he slides them down the length of my legs and pulls them off over my heels. The intensity and sudden nature of Reese’s behavior takes a toll on my ability to breathe. I watch as Reese draws my panties up to his face and inhales deeply. He gives me a wide unfazed smile and whispers up to me, "Your panties are already soaking wet. That's one of the many things I love about you, baby." I grin back at him and eagerly say, "I love that you can take me from zero to wide-open in five seconds flat." "Oh, so you love it when I rev your engine?" Reese asks with a big grin, feigning cheesy surprise as he lifts my skirt and nuzzles the front of my body with his nose, then his lips. He grunts in eager anticipation as he advances his face, forcing my legs to part in a shallow squat. Forgotten are the thoughts of what lies overhead. I stand before my husband with bated breath and serious expectations. Reese strokes the front of my labia with his tongue, eliciting a lengthy groan from me. The muscles in my back and legs are taut. Their work to keep me elevated and stationary before my husband is admirable. My breathing is rapid and haggard, evidence that Reese is coaxing my body to cooperate with his objective. As his tongue ensnares my nub, I close my eyes and savor his attention. With one hand, I take hold of Reese’s blond waves, tangling my fingers in his hair. My entire body trembles as an orgasm claims me. In a whispered voice, which heralds the success of Reese’s efforts, I say, “Thank you, baby. Thank you so much.” When I open my eyes, Reese stands before me. He nails me with a core wrenching kiss, causing additional wetness to flood me. I moan into the union of our mouths as I slide my skirt up over my hips and open for him a second time, wrapping my right leg around his waist. Instantly, I feel Reese’s hand at the juncture of my legs. His fingers work me skillfully. My eyelids slowly close as I relinquish my reservations and allow my husband to love me. Reese anchors me by fisting the hair on the back of my head. He pulls my hips forward with the presence of his fingers deep within me. My insides are hot, wet and aching, but as I hold onto the wall of the elevator with splayed fingers, an admonition from somewhere in the back of my mind pings away at our activity. Something seeks to undermine Reese's efforts to encourage me. The unidentified censure causes me to tense ever so slightly. Reese, who misses nothing, is aware of my fledgling reticence. I hear him at my ear, "Stop it, Em. This is about slaying your fear, killing off your doubts and finding your worth as a person apart from your messed-up family. You will walk into that room with the confidence you deserve. Now, get your head in the game and give me what I want." Reese engages his thumb against my clit. I cry out, startled by both his aggressive touch and virile admonition. The tension within me builds quickly, and I gasp as my body tightens around Reese's fingers. Suddenly, I have a different concern. "Reese,” I sputter, doing my best to overcome the intense stimulation, “I can't….” Reese's curiosity gets the better of him and he asks with genuine concern, "You can't what, baby? Tell me what you can't do." "I can't… be… quiet," I manage to say between the building spasms of an impending orgasm. "…too fast… too intense…" Reese's reassurance is instantaneous. "Then scream, Em. Let me hear you. You owe these people nothing. Give me everything you have. I want it all." Reese's words are perfect. His tone is perfect. The pressure and speed of his touch are perfect. Reese wants all my doubts and fears. He wants to give me peace and confidence in their stead. There's a hitch in my breathing as my body tightens around my husband's hand. "Give it to me. Now, Emery," Reese commands, ratcheting up the intensity by using the authority of my full name. I do as I’m told. I grip Reese’s broad shoulder with my teeth, and let my stifled scream do the talking for me. It tells Reese of the many reasons he’s so badly needed. It tells him what a spectacular job he's doing in his efforts to care for me. It tells him how thankful I am that God brought the two of us together. Oh, dear God, I'm so grateful for this wonderful, amazing man. As my body expends the last of its energy, Reese holds me upright by the weight of his torso pressing into mine. Very quickly, it becomes obvious Reese is pursuing an additional agenda. He picks me up and pins me against the elevator wall. I encircle his waist with my legs. Without a single word, and while engaging my gaze with his own, Reese avails me of his manhood. It's large, hard and hungry, and because I just climaxed, I feel every nuance of his erection. Reese grunts as he grinds into me. "For the love of all that’s holy, Em, I wish I could make you understand what loving you does to me..." I know he means every word. I understand how he feels because I feel the same about him. Reese is reminding me that I’m the one he loves. I’m the only one. Ever since our wedding, Reese has adored not only my body, but certainly my body. This incredible connection we share never gets old. We enjoy sex as God intends, binding not only our bodies, but also our hearts and minds. I lean backward into the elevator wall, groaning as I push my pelvis toward my husband, reveling at his presence so deep within me. He pumps slowly, lifting me with each thrust, but soon he'll give into the urge for a faster, tightly focused rhythm. "I’ll never tire of hearing you scream for me, Em. You rub me just right, baby." I lean forward and whisper, "It’s coming… so close.” Reese will see to it that I fare better than him. He always does. "Not yet," Reese grunts as he burrows into me, anchoring himself with both hands at my waist, pulling me tightly against him. "Not until you tell me what I want to hear. The longer you wait, the longer I'll work you. I'll hold on, Emery, until you give me what I want." I know Reese possesses the stamina to make good on his pledge, but I don't know if I can obey. The words he wants to hear are difficult to think on a normal day because I don’t run around telling myself how great I am. I’m just not that person. Today, with the hostility and oppression of my family weighing on me, I can’t lay claim to the words because I can’t find them. Reese drills me especially hard. I moan at his aggressive intrusion, loving the incredible pressure his appendage offers me. Reese brings his thumb to my clit but stops just shy of touching me. His gaze finds mine, and in a husky tone, ripe with love and lust, Reese asks, "You love it good and hard, don't you, baby?" Breathless, I nod my head in stifled agreement. I love it any way he wants to give it, but I’m still preoccupied by his request. My brain knows exactly what he wants, but my mind isn't ready to cooperate. Reese leans forward and prompts me in a quiet tender voice, "Tell me what I want to hear, Em.” I lean forward and drop my head onto Reese's shoulder. I’m unable to say it. Even after all these years, years filled with Reese affirming me to the point that I sometimes consider him the only ego I have, I find it nearly impossible to say, even though I hold it as truth. I know when I hear the words outside my own head, they’ll sound prideful, contemptuous even of the humility I strive to personify. My belly recoils at the thought of speaking the words audibly. Because I fail to obey, Reese contacts my nub with his thumb. The stimulation isn’t unkind, but it is insistent. I gasp and sit upright against the wall. My gaze finds his. The determination in his eyes is unmistakable. He's not going to give an inch on this one. But then, why would I want him to? I want every inch he can give me, every physical, intellectual and spiritual inch he can provide. Dear God, I need my husband. He's loving me with everything he's got. Help me cooperate. Reese’s words pull me from my prayer. "Tell me now, Emery. This is your last chance, baby." I know with every heartbeat he means it. I open my mouth to speak, but I fail miserably in my attempt to unite my effort with his command. As an incentive, Reese increases the speed and pressure of his attention. Now, of course, my voice works flawlessly. I scream again, writhing before my husband, as I brace my palms against the fronts of his shoulders. Reese is relentless. "That's it, baby. You’re so damn beautiful," he encourages me as he continues to pull forth my orgasm. "Tell me and I'll let you rest." It was probably the prayer I uttered, but somehow, from somewhere deep within me, I find the inner strength to stammer the words Reese wants to hear. "I am… beautiful. I am tru…ly beau…tiful." "That's right, baby," Reese agrees soothingly. His touch incites me to further cooperation. "Tell me, Emery, tell me all about you..." I do my best to catch my breath and speak through the intense orgasm. "I'm beautiful inside and out. God made me beautiful and you love me beautiful," I finally declare to my expectant husband. Reese’s response indicates I’ve finally satisfied his objective. As he keeps his promise with regards to letting me rest, I fall forward once again, dropping my head onto his shoulder. For the moment, I’m utterly spent. Thinking those words, and saying them aloud on this day, took everything I have emotionally. Reese’s demand on my body took everything I have physically. I am spent, but I am free. Reese whispers tenderly into my ear, "This is it, baby. This is my reminder to see yourself as you truly are." Now, that Reese has met my emotional needs he sets out to find his physical release. Several thrusts later, Reese empties himself into me and does some screaming of his own. I wrap my arms around Reese's neck and hug him fiercely. I let my embrace convey my gratitude, communicating everything I fail to say with words. Reese hears and understands my silence. As soon as he's able to stand without supporting himself against the wall of the elevator, Reese earnestly returns my hug. Tenderly, he stands me on my feet and looks me in the eyes. He smiles lovingly at me as he cradles my head in his large, gentle hands and asks, "You ok?" I return his smile and nod energetically. "Another thing I love about you is that you always seem to know what I need and just how to give it to me." Reese asks for clarification. "So, you feel stronger now? We vanquished your fears, and you're ready to face the mayhem?" I know God brought Reese to me so we could go through life together as touchstones for each other’s spiritual, physical and emotional needs. It’s just one of the amazing ways He cares for His children. I also know God would enable me to walk into the line of fire without another person by my side, but I’m incredibly grateful He’s made a solitary walk unnecessary. I smile and nod my answer to Reese’s question. "Yes,” I assure him, “I'm ready to face whatever waits for me when I step through those doors.” Reese smiles down at me and says authoritatively, "I’ve got you, Em." I don’t doubt him. I can’t imagine a time when I would. For just an instant, I drop my forehead into Reese’s chest and close my eyes. While he lovingly strokes my back, I silently whisper to the God I love: Thank you, Lord, for meeting my needs, for helping me get past myself so I can face the rest of my day. Thank you for sending Reese to me. He’s my constant, living reminder of your tender loving care. You’re so good, God. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for Psalm 55:22. I pull away from Reese and use tissues from my purse to clean away his deposit. I slip back into my panties, then smooth my skirt and hair. Reese restarts the elevator, and, in no time, we arrive at the top floor of the attorney's building. I look over and see remnant moisture from my bite on Reese’s shoulder. I make no mention of it. Reese will only see it as a badge of honor. He covers my hand with his, twining his long warm fingers with my smaller ones. Reese’s affirmations manifest. I steel my resolve, straighten my back and decide to own my truth. After all, my truth is indeed mine. Thanks to Reese, I won’t allow anyone to take it from me. Reese gives me his best smile of adoration and solidarity. The elevator doors open with their obligatory "ding" and, with Reese’s verbal assurances and physical support ringing within me, we exit the elevator into the throng of waiting reporters.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (paraphrased) One person can be defeated, two people, back to back are better protected, but three together are the strongest, for a braided cord cannot be easily broken.
The characters and the plot of this story are completely fictitious and do not purposefully imitate or represent any actual person or real-life event. The holy exception to this is God, who was, and is, and always will be!